COVID Cases Continue an Upward Trend, but Hospitalizations Remain Low
New infections continue on an upward trend, with 4,146 new cases reported by the state yesterday. The number of new infections have continued a slow but steady rise over the past two weeks. These cases are apparently mild in nature because, hospitalizations continue to remain low. As of yesterday, there were 928 people hospitalized with COVID related illness, which is 2 fewer than one week ago, and consistent with the running seven day average.
Uvalde School Shooting
The tragedy in Uvalde has and will continue to get the vast majority of the attention of the lawmakers in Austin. Here are the latest developments:
Several lawmakers have called on Gov. Abbott to call a special session – The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus was the first group to urge a special session to address gun restrictions in the aftermath of the school shooting. In a letter to Abbott, all 13 of the Democrats in the Texas Senate demanded Abbott call a special session to address issues such as raising the minimum age of purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21, universal background checks, and red flag laws. Republican Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano are two Republican members who have joined in to call on Abbott to convene a special session. The legislature is currently in the interim period and not scheduled to convene again until January of 2023 for their biennial regular session. The Governor is the only state official that has the power to call a special session.
The National Rifle Association met in Houston over the weekend for its annual convention. Gov. Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan, and Senator John Cornyn were all scheduled to attend prior to the events in Uvalde. All of them canceled in the wake of the aftermath. Senator Ted Cruz went ahead with his appearance at the convention. During his speech at the convention and in subsequent media appearances, Cruz has called for a “hardening” of the security in schools. Specifically, he is proposing all schools have just one door in and out of the school, and have police officers stationed at the door. Cruz’s claim is that this system works for courthouses and should apply to schools as well. Skeptics point to the need in schools for multiple entry points for deliveries, access to extra circular activities, and community events.
President Biden and the First Lady visited Uvalde on Sunday where they first visited a memorial outside the school for the shooting victims, and then attended mass where many of the families of the victims worship. Biden was greeted and accompanied on his visit by Gov. Abbott, US Congressman Tony Gonzalez, the Uvalde County Judge, Mayor, and state Senator Roland Gutierrez. Biden also visited with families of the victims and first responders. Biden did not deliver formal remarks, but prior to boarding the plane to head back to Washington, he told a pool of reporters he was optimistic that lawmakers in Washington could come to a consensus to pass sensible gun related legislation.
With that said, a bipartisan group of Senators from both parties are meeting to negotiate and discuss proposals in response to the mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo in recent weeks. Texas Senator John Cornyn is part of the group that is due to report back to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer next week. The first series of meetings are taking place today, to see if there is some sort of basic framework that can be reached to create the basis for proposals moving forward.
One of the Congressional runoff races that took place last week is still too close to call. Incumbent Democrat Henry Cuellar of Laredo holds a 175 vote lead over challenger Jessica Cisneros. Cuellar has declared victory, but Cisneros has refused to concede. Her claim is that there are still several hundred provisional and mail in ballots that have not been counted, and won’t get counted until sometime this week. Counties have until this Thursday to count all mail and military ballots and report the results to the state.
With the primary election season over for now, numerous committee hearings are taking place, and many are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Upcoming meetings include the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee to discuss illegal 8-liner gaming machines and the Senate Finance Committee to discuss Medicaid and long term health care funding.
The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: https://capitol.texas.gov